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05/07/2010
IconGetting Your Kids to Brush Their Teeth By Armin Brott www.mrdad.com Dear Mr. Dad: Our five-year old refuses to brush his teeth-almost every night my wife and I end up screaming at him (and each other) and he ends up in tears. We're thinking about bagging the whole idea. Does he really need to be brushing his teeth at this age? If so, what can we do to make the process a little less miserable for all of us (and our neighbors, who probably think we're torturing our son)? A: Okay, here's something you probably didn't know: dental caries (better known as tooth decay or cavities) is a disease, not just a hole in a tooth. Actually, it's the single most common chronic childhood disease-far more common than asthma and obesity, according to the California Dental Association. And to make matters worse, tooth decay is contagious, just like the measles, the flu, and small pox. The bacteria that cause decay can be passed from one person to another by kissing or sharing drinking cups or silverware. Pain and suffering due to untreated tooth decay can lead to problems in eating, speaking and paying attention in school. In other words, cavities hurt. And having them filled hurts too. (New laser treatments are promising to make cavities and fillings pain free. But don't tell mention that to your child.) One way to avoid cavities is to make sure your child brushes twice a day, every day with a soft brush. This comes directly from the top, the ADA. Unfortunately, until your child is about six years old, he won't have the coordination to brush his teeth on his own. He can get the process started, but you'll need to give his mouth a once-over to make sure the job gets done right. As your child gets older, show him how to brush with a fluoride toothpaste and floss on his own. There are all kinds of flavored flosses out there that you can buy to make to task less onerous. You also might want to pick up some disclosing tablets or drops at your local pharmacy. You may remember these tablets from grade school. When you chew them or swish the drops around any unbrushed spots on the teeth will show up red. Use the tablets or drops every day for the first week that your child is brushing solo. Then cut back to once or twice a week. If your child refuses to brush, you've got a few options. Sticks. Taking away some privileges or treats until the teeth start gleaming. Carrots. Incentives and rewards for doing the job right. This is generally more successful then punishment. Scare tactics. Caring for your teeth and gums does more than improve your smile and your breath. The bacteria that cause tooth decay can get into the bloodstream, where they increase the risk of ulcers, pneumonia, digestive problems, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. This is absolutely true. Gum and candy. Yep. But not just any kind. It has to be sugar free and sweetened with xylitol, a natural sweetener that keeps bacteria from sticking to teeth. Chewing gum with xylitol for five minutes after each meal has been shown to reduce cavities. Sealants. About 80 percent of cavities in kids are on the tops of their molars, and studies have shown that sealing these teeth with a special kind of resin is extremely successful in preventing cavities. Armin Brott bestselling books have helped millions of men around the world become the fathers they want to be-and their children need them to be. His most recent is Fathering Your School-Age Child. Armin has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television shows , writes a nationally syndicated column, "Ask Mr. Dad," and hosts a weekly radio show. He and his family live in Oakland, California. You can contact him at armin@mrdad.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconMoments for Mom By Elisabeth K. Corcoran Another family moment within the confines of the minivan#133; oh minivan, sweet minivan . Sara and Jack were being their normal kinda loud, sometimes aggravating selves, carrying on their occasional kinda frustrating, kinda maddening minivan behavior. They were arguing over a book or something#133;you know the kind of thing where that book has sat there for probably 2 months, but because one of them was reading it, the other just had to have it right then and there. So, I was doing my typical best to tune them out with the radio, or prayer, or some type of mantra like, #147;I am not going crazy#133;I am not going to lose my mind#133;this too shall pass#133;#148; When all of the sudden, Sara gives Jack the book and says to me, #147;Mommy #150; I want to ask you a question.#148; #145;Okay#146;, I said, almost a little afraid. #147;Did you have two kids so that we would fight and leave you alone?#148; Before the words, #147;Oh, don#146;t be silly#133;Mommy and Daddy had two kids because we wanted to have a family to love and take care of, blah blah blah#148;, could come out of my mouth, I said, #145;Pretty much.#146; And she said, #147;That#146;s what I thought.#148; This was one of those times when seizing the teachable moment felt a little out of reach#133;my reserves were spent and I had nothing to give. Did I feel even the slightest bit guilty that I answered my sensitive and inquisitive daughter with sarcasm? Not really. What can I say #150; some days my head hits the pillow a little lighter than others#133;this was just not one of those days. But there are other days when I realize after the fact that one of those sometimes illusive teachable moments has happened #150; and I had no idea. A while ago, my daughter was having a meltdown in public#133;you know the kind, where you have to physically remove the child from the store kicking and screaming? How pleasant. Well, she#146;s yelling things at me, within earshot of several customers and clerks, and I was cringing at what I heard (but couldn#146;t help smiling a bit too). Because she wasn#146;t yelling things like #147;I hate you, Mom!#148;, for which I was truly grateful; instead she chose to tell me the following: #147;I#146;m disappointed in you! I#146;m telling Daddy about this when he gets home! You#146;re being disobedient! You need a consequence! #148; Wonder where she got all of that?! That little girl of mine is listening to me#133; and learning . And then there was the time when we were driving down the road and there was a man holding a sign that said, #147;Will work for food#148;. Well, I felt the nudge of the Spirit to buy him lunch, so I went up to McDonald#146;s and then drove back around again to bring it to him. It was hard to be inconspicuous as I had to stop traffic, roll down the passenger side window and sort of yell to get his attention#133;so Sara, of course, wanted to know what I was doing. I explained it simply and that was that #150; we never talked about it again. Until about six months later when we were driving down that same street and passed that corner#133;the man was not there this time, but my 6-year-old Sara said to me, #147;Mommy, do you remember that time you gave that man lunch?#148; And I said, #145;Yes, honey, I remember#146;, almost trembling because I had no idea she had that capacity for memory. And she said softly, #147;Mommy, that was so generous of you.#148; She is watching me#133; and learning . So by all means, grab those teachable moments when you see them. But cut yourself some slack when you just can#146;t muster up a creative comeback#133;because they are watching you all of the time (and I do mean this as an encouragement!). copy; Elisabeth K. Corcoran, 2003. Elisabeth K. Corcoran is the author of Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom#146;s Weary Soul . She is wife to Kevin, and mom to Sara, 6--1/2, and Jack, 5. Her passion is encouraging women and she fulfills that through heading up the Women#146;s Ministries at Blackberry Creek Community Church in Aurora, IL and writing as much as she can. Calm in My Chaos (2001) can be purchased directly through her publisher, Kregel Publications at #1-888-644-0500 or www.kregel.com, at DrLaura.com , or through a local Christian bookstore. This column is original and not excerpted from her book. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconI Dare You! Get Rid of the Sugar: Watch The Benefits Come On In By Connie Bennett, C.H.H.C. www.sugarshockblog.com You may find it really tough to believe that eating tempting, tasty desserts and processed, quickie carbs can dramatically harm your moods, energy levels, relationships, libido, thought processes and overall health. This is why I flat out invite you to doubt my claim. Go ahead: Do NOT believe me! Do NOT take my word for it. That's right. Be skeptical of my emphatic assertion that fast-acting, processed culprit carbs can greatly endanger you. For three weeks, eat only high-quality protein, veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, fats, and whole grains. (Beware of gluten if you have sensitivity to it.) Then, as you test out this sugar-free way of eating, take a step back and assess how you feel. Tune into your body and emotions. Jot down some thoughts. Do you: Have more energy? Feel more focused? Feel more cheerful? Have improved libido? Find getting up in the morning more enjoyable? What other benefits, if any, are you experiencing? At that point, make a decision. You may choose to stick to your new sugar-free habits, because your benefits are just so tremendous. But if, after those 21 days, you're still not convinced of the value of going sugar-free or almost sugar-free, then allow yourself one single day of indulgence. (Please do this only if your doctor gives you permission and you don't have a medical condition such as hypoglycemia or diabetes. Bear in mind, however, that I'm not giving medical advice here.) Now, please remember: I'm NOT recommending that you pig out. I'm merely presenting the idea that you may wish to partake of polite portions of pasta, pizza, pastries, soda, wine, candies, cookies, cakes or other "taboo" foods on that one designated day. After indulging, step back again and watch yourself very closely. In fact, study yourself dispassionately and observe yourself as if you were a lab rat. Get out your pen again and take more notes. How do you feel a half hour after ingesting sweets? How do you feel an hour after caving into your carb cravings? How do you feel 2 hours later? How do you feel the very next day? How do you feel 2 days later after your deliberate indiscretion? What specific emotions and sensations are you feeling? Are you experiencing a feeling of hyperactivity? Are you feeling more cranky and crabby? Are you feeling really wired or high -- and then later really tired or low? Are you completely crashing energy-wise? Are you short on drive to get things done? Be really specific. I'm absolutely convinced that you'll be completely flabbergasted by the wonderful benefits. Connie Bennett is a former sugar addict and author of SUGAR SHOCK! (Berkley Books), with Stephen Sinatra, M.D. Connie helps thousands to break free of their debilitating sugar habit through the 21-Day, Stop SUGAR SHOCK! Countdown Diet(tm). Connie is a certified holistic health counselor and an experienced journalist, who has contributed to eDiets.com, The Los Angeles Times, and many other media outlets. Take the fun, provocative SUGAR SHOCK! Quiz at www.sugarshockblog.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconNational Association of At-Home Mothers Info Guide #31 From Career to At-Home Mothering: Mastering The Transition You've thought it over, weighed the pros and cons, and changed your mind a half dozen times. You long for the positives of being a full-time parent#151;the opportunity to guide and nurture full time, the security of knowing that you can be there whenever your children need you, the freedom from feeling yourself spread tissue paper-thin trying to juggle too many demands on your time and energy. You've certainly acknowledged the drawbacks#151;decreased family income, the possibility you'll feel bored or isolated, loss of the status your career has afforded. But finally one day something clicks. You realize you don't want to go back to your job a few short weeks or months after you've given birth. Or you realize that your kids have bonded with, and later had to say good-bye to, too many caregivers. Or you realize that, despite the "official" policy, your boss really does hold it against you when you miss work to attend your child's kindergarten play. You make the decision#151;you're going to be an at-home mother#151;and a good one, to boot. You feel a tremendous sense of relief just from finally making the decision. But making a successful transition to this new way of life requires a bit more than just giving two weeks' notice to your boss and smiling during your going away party. It requires attending to the process of transition itself. You already know how important a good start is for future success. A good start is a gift you want to give your children, one of the reasons you've chosen at-home parenting. And by understanding the nature of transitions, it's a gift you can give yourself as well. Transitions are, by definition, a process of moving from the old and familiar to the new and unknown . And no matter how tiresome or difficult the old, familiar way was, moving into the unknown can be difficult and downright scary. Even when the change is one you really desire. If you don't believe it, just think about what it was like to be an adolescent. You couldn't wait to be grown-up. You probably screamed bloody murder if someone treated you like a child (especially when you were acting like one) but in truth you simply hadn't yet mastered the skills to function successfully as an adult. And to make the whole thing even more complicated, you felt you couldn't admit that there were times when you really wanted the security of childhood. It was a crazy-making time. But that's just the nature of transition#151;not quite knowing who you are anymore, and not quite feeling like you fit. It's the desperation of having one foot on the dock and the other on a moving boat. And if being an at-home mother is new for you, you're going to experience some degree of distress in making the change. So what things can you do to master the transition? Recognize that the transition to at-home parenting is stressful . You need to take better care of yourself during the changeover#151;get plenty of sleep, pay attention to nutrition, make time to exercise. The tricky part here is that you may find yourself feeling morally obligated to spend every waking minute doing for your family because that is your new "job." Fight the temptation. You're infinitely more valuable as a role model than a servant. Hopefully what you're modeling is that full-time parenting doesn't mean exhaustion and martyrdom. Guard against taking on the entire job of parenting yourself . Your children have a father, too, and it's important that his contributions are still seen as essential even though Mom is now around a lot more. Your husband may at first be delighted that you may have time for the vacuuming or bathtime or shopping or whatever chores were his when you both were employed outside the home. But he can soon start to feel like an outsider if he is suddenly "excused" from participation just because you're at home with the kids now. Plan to be the real you, and to let your family see who that is . It's tempting to try to become some combination of Martha Stewart and Mother Theresa, but if that's not who you are, it's not likely to work very well. You can choose to become a gourmet cook or an expert in child development if you want, but keep in mind that neither is necessary to be a really great parent. There are lots of ways to be a wonderful mother; finding your own is the key to real success. Set aside time to be a couple . Keep communicating, and be sure that you do have things to talk about besides the children. If money is tight, find another couple with whom you can swap kids so that you can have the occasional night out alone. Actively seek out a support network . Although there may not seem to be many at-home mothers these days (there are only two on my street), they are out there if you look. Your church group, the YWCA, toddler story hour at the library, neighborhood parks#151;all are places where you are likely to meet kindred spirits who share your lifestyle. Accept that you're going to feel some real sadness or grief over the things you've given up in order to be an at-home mom. And you may in fact feel worse before you feel better. Especially on those thankfully-infrequent but absolutely-inevitable days when the washing machine breaks down and the baby has the croup and you hear that your worst enemy from high school has been named Vice President of some Fortune 500 company. It's only human to have at least a little sadness or envy or regret, or even anger, that you're no longer primarily out there in the world of grownups. Allow yourself to experience these unpleasant emotions#151;and know they will pass. Set aside some time each week, even if it's in small increments, to fill up your brain . Read a book about anything but children. Write poetry, or an essay entitled, "Who I Am Now." Take a class in something you know nothing about. Attend a lecture. Call your smartest friend to discuss philosophy, or politics, or the space program. Otherwise, it's easy for you to forget how really bright you are. Find some external rewards for the work you do . Face it, there aren't a lot of job promotions and pay raises in the at-home world, and believe it or not, those warm feelings of self-satisfaction don't always do the trick. Maybe you need your husband or mother or best friend to tell you periodically that you're doing a terrific job. Let them know you need it. Establish goals . They can be extravagant or simple, short-term or long-term#151;having some of each is best. Do you plan to teach your children French? To take them to the park three times a week? To build a new redwood deck during naptimes? To breastfeed for eight months? To start a home catering business? To make two new friends who are also at-home mothers? Whatever your goals may be, write them down and check your progress once a month. So much of parenting is more about daily maintenance than about achievement; it helps to know you're accomplishing as well. Remind yourself (daily!) that this is the course you have chosen . Bumps in the road are a little easier to handle if it's a road we want to be on. And as most at-home mothers will tell you, there will be those times that you'll be dismissed with a bored or pitying look by others after you respond to the question, "What kind of work do you do?" It's annoying, even hurtful. But if you know in your own mind that you have chosen to spend this time at home to nurture your children, others' opinions about it will matter a whole lot less. Re-evaluate periodically , perhaps once a year or so, in much the same way you used to have an "annual review" at work. Ask yourself how you are doing, how the children are doing, how the family as a whole is doing. Revisit your original reasons for being at home, and determine whether they still apply. Don't be surprised if you find that it has been one of the most rewarding years of your life, and that you wouldn't think of going back to the old lifestyle. Obviously the opposite is a possibility, too. What is most likely, however, is that you will discover at-home mothering is very much like the rest of life#151;lots of wonderfulness with just enough unpleasant stuff to keep you from becoming smug. It is clear that children need the grownups in their lives to want to be with them. It's also a safe bet that they can tell if you don't. If you honestly find that you can't summon any joy or warmth or enthusiasm for at-home mothering, then do everyone a favor and make some changes. Talk over with your husband how you are feeling, and see if you can come up with solutions together. Consider other ways for you to fill your emotional tank. Perhaps if your children are school-aged, going back to work part-time will give you the balance you need while allowing you to spend time with your children. Look at your options, try something new, and of course, be prepared for another transition! Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconUn-Stick Your Habits and Stick-To Your Diet Kenneth Schwarz, PhD Julie Schwarz www.mariaslastdiet.com Sticking to a weight loss diet plan takes more than wanting to lose weight. It takes more than posting a food plan on the fridge. You need to have a plan for changing the things you do so automatically that bring your diet down every time. Sticking to it is too hard when your habits keep working against you. You can actually change those habits so they work for you. You may think changing your ways is too difficult, but it's not. What it takes is recognizing that you do certain things without thinking and it continually gets in your way. That's the trick. These are the things that cause you to fight against yourself when you diet. They keep their power over you only when you don't stop to notice them. Here is a list of habits that will sabotage your weight loss diet plan again and again, no matter how good a plan it is. You probably don't have all of these habits, but even one or two can mean the difference between staying on and going off. Which of these anti-diet habits do you stick to? I hang out with people who overeat I don't ask anyone for support when I diet I try to be perfect I put everyone else's needs first I always expect to lose the weight fast I don't speak up for myself I never look in the full length mirror I see every cheat as a failure I don't leave time to relax I engage in negative self-talk I don't reward myself for my accomplishments I don't anticipate high risk eating situations I don't acknowledge painful feelings I blame myself for everything I keep very tempting foods in the house I don't get enough sleep I take on too many tasks at one time I set unrealistic goals for myself I pick diets that don't fit my lifestyle I don't admit how I feel about my weight Take the three habits you have that you think are the stickiest and begin to take them seriously. Ask these important questions: When do they occur most? What purpose do they serve? When did they start? Are there other situations in my life besides dieting where these habits come into play? Are they really necessary to my life? Can I see myself living without them? Would life be better without them? Giving this kind of careful consideration to your habits, realizing the effect they have on you, will motivate you to change them. For example, if you have habit #1, you can try not to spend a lot of time with people who overeat, especially in the beginning of the diet when you are most vulnerable. If you have habit #2, you can try to ask for support the next time you diet because helping relationships are essential to diet success. If you have habit #3, you can stop trying to be perfect because no one is perfect. When you learn to accept your slips, you can pick yourself up after and continue on to diet success. You won't suddenly erase these habits from your repertoire of behaviors, but believe it or not the most important thing is to notice them, admit them, acknowledge them. This has a powerful effect. Take stock of all the anti-diet things you do day after day without so much as a second thought. Question these things, give them that second thought, think about them, and you will begin to un-stick them. Then you can go ahead and put your effort into turning things around. After all, you deserve habits that work for you when you diet. copy; 2007 Maria's Last Diet Dr. Kenneth Schwarz, a psychologist and psychoanalyst, and Julie North Schwarz are the founders of Maria's Last Diet, an online weight loss support website for women. At Maria's Last Diet, you'll find tools to fix the thoughts, feelings, and automatic habits that fight against you when you diet. It's never just about the food. Visit www.mariaslastdiet.com for more weight loss tips and dieting support. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconTips for At-Home Mothering Success Whether you are a seasoned at-home mother, or contemplating this choice, here are a few key tips to help ensure that at-home mothering is a positive experience for you and your family. Communicate . Clear communication between you and your spouse is vital. You must both feel that this is the right choice for your family. Write out your reasons for choosing at-home mothering, and your priorities as a family. Discuss how the chores and childcare will be divided, how you#146;ll manage financially, how you#146;ll schedule time for yourselves and your marriage, and any other issues that are important to both of you. Create a support system . It is likely that past co-worker friends or those without children will not be able to relate to your lifestyle. Finding a new set of mothering friends will help you avoid isolation and loneliness. Nothing is more helpful than connecting with others who have the same concerns, frustrations and joys. Check bulletin boards at grocery stores, libraries, etc. for a playgroup or mother#146;s group in your area. If you can#146;t find one, start one yourself with mothers in your neighborhood. Making an effort to meet other at-home mothers is well worth it, and may lead to meaningful, life-long friendships. Re-evaluate family finances . Giving up a second income may not be as hard as you think. After subtracting childcare and other costs of working, such as wardrobe, commuting, convenience meals out, office gifts, etc., you may be surprised just how little you were actually bringing home. You may be able to make up the difference by carefully looking for ways to save. If you still can#146;t make ends meet, at-home contract work, or a small home business can bring in the income you need. An added bonus is that you may keep your skills up-to-date, have more adult interaction and higher self-esteem. Develop a sense of mission . With all the demands of mothering, its easy to get lost in the endless daily chores and details, and loose the big picture. Developing a #147;mission statement#148; and an #147;action plan#148; much like a business does, will help you: clarify your priorities and goals, make better parenting and financial decisions, see your progress and accomplishments, and allow you to let go of those things that are less important. Write down what you#146;d like to accomplish as a mother, wife and person. List concrete actions you could take. Schedule activities to begin to accomplish your goals. Most importantly, be flexible to allow for inevitable interruptions and the changing needs of your family. Remember your priorities . There will always be housework and a multitude of other demands on your time, energy and attention. Don#146;t forget that spending time with and caring for your children is your priority. Remind yourself daily that this is the course you have chosen . Bumps in the road are a little easier to handle if its a road we want to be on. copy; 1999 National Association of At-Home Mothers. All rights reserved. Permission granted for use on drlaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconThe Trouble With Fat Kids Men's Health Magazine It's Halloween night, the last trick-or-treater's gone, you're staring at your kid's bulging bag of candy on the table. As you open the bag and begin to eye the treats hungrily, you askyourself: "Is there any chance some of this candy could actually be good for my kids?" "You bet!" says a special report in the November issue of MEN'S HEALTH magazine. Or at least let's say that you, as the parent, could use that candy to teach your kids a few things about nutrition and self-control... ...which would be a very good idea since kids in the US are quickly becoming overweight and obese at an almost-epidemic rate. Take a look around you...childhood obesity is a giant problem. In fact, here's some shocking statistics...just days before Halloween: ONE IN SEVEN U.S. KIDS IS OVERWEIGHT OR OBESE, a jump of 50% in 20 years. A KID'S RISK OF BECOMING OBESE DOUBLES FOR EVERY HOUR OF TV HE WATCHES...and the average kid watches 21 hours of TV a week. THE AVERAGE KID EATS ABOUT 1,900 CALORIES EVERY DAY...but their bodies only need 800-1,300. AND HERE'S THE KILLER: Fat kids grow up to be fat adults...and are at dramatically greater risk of succumbing to diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer and other diseases associated being overweight. DO STATISTICS LIKE THESE SCARE YOU? They should. BUT HERE'S THE STATISTIC THAT SHOULD SCARE YOU THE MOST: A kid's #1 role model when it comes to diet and healthy-eating are his parents... ...so what you do next with your kid's bag of Halloween candy may determine whether he or she grows up to be healthy and fit, or fat and plagued with significant health problems for life. Because the rate at which kids in the U.S. are becoming overweight and obese is at a level that is almost-epidemic, Men's Health magazine is offering a special report on childhood obesity titled: " The Trouble with Fat Kids ". (Not all content in MensHealth.com is endorsed by the Dr. Laura Program) This special report is stuffed full of tips and ideas on how you, as the parent, can take control of your family's weight and the future of their health. For more information on MEN'S HEALTH, go to www.menshealth.com . (Not all content in MensHealth.com is endorsed by the Dr. Laura Program) Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconMom On A Mission Homebodies By Cheryl Gochnauer Cheryl@homebodies.org Copyright 2001 Do you ever feel like queen of your castle? After years of working for somebody else, I like the perk of having time to polish my own 1400 square foot domain. It may not be the Taj Mahal, but it's mine. Well, mine and the bank's. Anyway, now that I get to spend my days here instead of at the office, I've had time to explore every corner, and I've discovered that I like keeping a tidy house. Don't worry; I'm not perfect. But like my high-maintenance hero in When Harry Met Sally, I know what I want, and I'm not afraid to ask for it. I want a clutter-free house. Toy-strewn bath and shower stalls bug meas much as over-stuffed file cabinets used to. Along the same lines,though I may have bought them at thrift stores or clearance sales, I like clothes that match, and furniture that fits. Every so often, I take a critical walk down the halls and through the rooms. Lights pop on in closets and the basement bares its secreted junk. Peeking under beds and over railings, out-of-place and under-used items are illuminated by my analytical high-beams. My daughters sense a garage sale looming, and suddenly toys they have ignored for months become precious. You would not believe the tugs-of-war I've gotten into over ratty old blankets and dresses two sizes too small. "Look - it still fits!" Karen models her favorite high-water jeans with the top button undone. Desperately she rallies support for its matching shirt. "...And if I pull down the sleeves and hold my arms like this.... Mom! I want that!" I'm getting smarter. Most of the time, I do my dirty work while the kids are away. Like the sticky-fingered Grinch, I silently stalk toy boxes and laundry baskets. This works really well. It may be years before one of them turns around and says, "Didn't I used to have.... Mom!" I have no regrets. You just have to have a plan. For instance, take disposing of tattered artwork that has languished in a discarded backpack for six months. Shake off the old cookie crumbs, then bury the picture deep in a black trash bag. Don't trust those thin bags you can see through. If you do, the piece will come back to haunt you, plucked from oblivion as a now spaghetti-splattered work of art, magneted back in its hallowed spot on the refrigerator door. I especially enjoy getting rid of those games with 1,001 pieces. I don't think there is any real object to those games, except to scatter the pieces and leave. Territory markers, that's what they are. Well, this is my territory and there are no squatters allowed! Into the garage sale box they go. Believe it or not, the kids usually don't realize the game is gone until they see it out on the driveway with a sticker on it. Another note: Send the kids to Grandma's on garage sale day. Otherwise, they'll be chasing cars like schnauzers and half your inventory will end up in a reverent pile in the middle your child's bed. The perfect solution for kiddy clutter? Sell it to a neighbor with youngsters near the same age as yours. That way, your children can go over to their house, scatter the pieces, and then come home. Both you and your kids are happy! As a seasoned mother and unmuddler, I stand behind the advice given above. I've only been burned on this system once. There was this stuffed animal, you see, who had been lying in a haphazard heap in the corner one month too long. It was whisked away during one of my whirlwind tours, and tagged to sell. When Little Red realized her Ballerina Bear had a new home, there was a scene I could have sold movie rights for. I guess I should have let that bear gather another year's worth of dust. Instead, I unwittingly gave my daughter and a future support group something to talk about. But, HEY - my house looks great! Comments? Email Cheryl@homebodies.org or visit www.homebodies.org , where you can interact with other moms on the lively messageboards. Cheryl's books, " So You Want to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom " (InterVarsity Press, 1999), " Stay-at-Home Handbook: Advice on Parenting, Finances, Career, Surviving Each Day More " (InterVarsity Press, 2002) and "Mom to Mom: Committing Our Children to God" (Beacon Hill Press, 2002) are all available by visiting Cheryl's webpage at http://www.gospelcom.net/homebodies/experts/cgochnauer/index.php . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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